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Calls for King to mediate

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Former opposition party leader Sam Rainsy (centre) prays at Choeung Ek killing fields memorial in Phnom Penh in 2015. TANG CHHIN SOTHY/afp

Calls for King to mediate

King Norodom Sihamoni should act as a mediator between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition figure Sam Rainsy to help ease political tensions and improve Cambodia’s standing on the world stage, analysts argue.

Political analyst Meas Nee and Transparency International’s Preap Kol have suggested that the King, like his father before him, could help reconcile the nation by inviting the two political opponents to the negotiating table.

This role would be in accordance with the King’s duties to bring about national reconciliation and unity during political crises as stated in the Constitution, they said.

However, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan said such a situation is “not possible” because “the duty of the King cannot violate the law”.

The former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Rainsy, he said, had been banned from political activity along with other opposition leaders by the Supreme Court and has other legal cases yet to be settled.

But Nee said: “The Constitution clearly states that the King is the symbol of national reconciliation and unity. So if there is a political deadlock, only the King can mediate.”

He referred to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, who used his role to mediate in previous political crises that Cambodia faced.

“If Cambodia has a political crisis in which there is no solution, [politicians] would stop caring about democracy."

“They just make sure that they can survive and do not care which side they take. This is the danger for the Kingdom if our Cambodian leaders continue like this,” he said.

Preap Kol said national reconciliation was an important topic for Cambodia at present, and it could be achieved by direct negotiations between conflicting parties by prioritising the interests of the nation and its people.

“In case the conflicting parties cannot start dialogue or negotiations by themselves, the King should fulfil his duty by mediating between them for national reconciliation, as Norodom Sihanouk did in the past.

“Another way would be to ask friendly nations, such as Japan or European countries, to help with mediation,” he said.

However, Eysan said such talks were impossible because some CNRP members had run into legal problems that could only be solved through legal means.

“If problems are to be solved, they have to be done through the law, and as it has been implemented already, this is not possible. The duty of the King cannot violate the law,” he stressed.

When asked if someone from the former CNRP, besides Rainsy, could negotiate with the government, Eysan said that as the opposition party’s 118 leaders have had their political rights suspended, there was no one to negotiate with.

Eysan said: “We only have to wait until 2023 when the opposition party can operate again” for negotiations [to happen].”

Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath supported the idea of inviting the King to act as a mediator in accordance with the duties of the monarch.

“[Outsiders] can intervene once in a while so that we can get along with each other and have discussions. But for negotiations, finally, it needs to be Cambodian and Cambodian,” Chanrath said.

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